Well done to Torchwood star John Barrowman, who opened the twentieth Commonwealth Games in Glasgow last night with a kiss.
The ceremony, which was held at Celtic Park in the city’s east end, began with a kitsch musical number performed by Barrowman and comedy actress Karen Dunbar celebrating Scotland’s diverse culture and history. In front of an estimated television audience of 1.5 billion, Mr. Barrowman kissed one of the kilted male dancers during a sequence on Gretna Green—the romantic village where eloping couples have traditionally married.
The kiss was accompanied by shouts of “Here’s to equality in Scotland.”
The bill for gay marriage in Scotland received Royal assent in March this year, and the first gay weddings will take place in 2015.
The theme of the opening ceremony was equality for all, and Mr. Barrowman’s kiss highlighted the fact that homosexuality is a prisonable offense in an astonishing 42 of the 54 Commonwealth nations taking part on the games.
Among the other artists taking part in the “Friendly games” opening ceremony were Rod Stewart, Nicola Bendetti, Amy MacDonald, DJ Mylo, Billy Connolly, Susan Boyle, Karen Dunbar, Ewan MacGregor and 41 Scottish Terriers. Read a review here.
A cafe in Glasgow, Scotland, has come under criticism for selling Breaking Bad crystal meth cupcakes.
The Riverhill Coffee Bar is selling the cupcakes, with a blue topping that resembles the crystal meth drug manufactured by Bryan Cranston’s character, Walter White, in the hit TV series, at $3.00 a hit.
Christine Duncan, chief executive of Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs, told Glasgow’s Evening Times:
“The glamorising of drugs is completely distasteful.
“We know from our membership base that the impact of drug misuse on families includes financial instability, breakdown in family relationships and the loss of employment.”
Two different points being made by Christine here, neither of which relate to the subject of cupcakes.
Meanwhile Nina Parker, city councillor for the Green Party said:
“It doesn’t sit well with the work that is being done to tackle drug abuse. Quite frankly, there’s nothing funny about recreational drug use.”
Back then, Billy Connolly walked on water, and turned it into wine. Or, so it seemed. He was “The Big Yin,” Glasgow’s favorite son. Every household seemed to own a Connolly album, or had been to one of his sell-out concerts, where even grannies queued for tickets, and wee kids knew the patter for his routines “Jobby Weecher” and “The Crucifixion” off by heart. He was a phenomenon, and in 1975 Connolly was on the verge of national and international success.
This short film captures Connolly at home in Glasgow, where he performs to a sell-out audience, visits his school and the Clyde shipyards where he first worked, and talks about his life.
David McCallum has long been a much-loved actor and TV icon. From his early days as the pin-up secret agent, Illya Kuryakin, acting alongside Robert Vaughn’s Napoleon Solo in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., through to the excellent Colditz, the wonderfully, bizarre Sapphire and Steel, The Invisible Man and now “Ducky” Mallard in today’s NCIS.
But what is perhaps less known about this talented actor, is the fact McCallum is a classically trained musician of the highest caliber, and for a long time the blonde-haired Glaswegian seriously considered a making his career in music, as he explained to 16 magazine back in 1966:
The wonder was that David ever became an actor at all—for he was trained to be a musician from the age of four, playing the oboe with classic clarity. An appreciation of music ran deep in the McCallum family. David’s father, a famous violinist and leader of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, was taught classical music at his mother’s knee.
The McCallums came from a little Scottish mining village, Kilsyth in Stirlingshire, where David’s paternal grandfather was the village grocer. It was a deeply religious community, and David’s grandmother hoped her son would learn the harp. But no one there could play the instrument, so young David Fotheringham McCallum was taught violin instead. And his own son, David Keith McCallum—born on September 19, 1933, at 24 Kersland Street, Glasgow—inherited this musical tradition.
When the family moved to Bracknell Gardens, Hampstead, in London, David went to University College School, and musical evenings became a feature of this childhood. He was taught violin and piano, but it was the oboe that he mastered. However, David secretly harbored a longing to become an actor, so when one of his uncles needed an oboe, David offered his—cheap!—and started out on his acting career. Though he laughingly calls the oboe “...an ill wind nobody blows good,” David still admits, “I always knew that I could turn to music if I failed as an actor.”
McCallum was given a recording contract, and between 1966 and 1968, released four albums on Capitol Records: Music…A Part Of Me, Music…A Bit More Of Me, Music…It’s Happening Now!, and McCallum. However, rather than singing his way through these discs McCallum, together with producer David Axelrod, created a blend of oboe, French horn, and strings with guitar and drums, for musical interpretations of hits of the day. These included “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction”, “Downtown”, “Louie, Louie”, “I Can’t Control Myself” and his own compositions, “Far Away Blue”, “Isn’t It Wonderful?” and “It Won’t Be Wrong”.
The best known McCallum tracks today are “The Edge,” which was sampled by Dr. Dre as the intro and riff to the track “The Next Episode,” and “House of Mirrors,” sampled by DJ Shadow for “Dark Days”.
“The Edge” - David McCallum
“House of Mirrors” - David McCallum
David McCallum introduces TnT Show with ‘Satisfaction, while Ron and Russell Mael (Sparks) watch from the audience
Bonus clips (with Nancy Sinatra) and tracks, after the jump!...
For twenty-years, artist John Butler has been the driving talent behind an incredible array of short animated films and science-fiction series. As one half of the Butler Brothers, John has produced, written and animated original, speculative fictions that examine the nature of our relationship with Government, Military and Corporations through technology.
Animations such as Eden, The Ethical Governor, T.R.I.A.G.E. and Unmanned have reinforced John’s dystopian view of the world, where technology is primarily developed as a means of control, war and exploitation.
‘I don’t think we’re doomed,’ says Butler, ‘But we are stuck with it. I think the self checkouts in supermarkets indicate where we are going, towards a cybernetic transaction space. They should give us a discount since we’re doing all the work now.’
Butler’s latest animation Acrohym is a satirical ‘song of praise’ to DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency):
...the most exciting arts commissioning agency in the world today.
Acrohym stands for ‘Advanced, Central, Research, Organization, High-Yield, Markets.’ The kind of buzz words promoted by PR reps and technocrats, who are currently destroying language and democracy.
Butler is fascinated by this and the way in which organizations like DARPA, have become like art/science patrons developing new technologies for the military, while at the same time creating their own language.
‘I liked the idea that DARPA seemed to think of cool acronyms first and work backwards from that. Things like the FANG (Fast, Adaptble, Next-Generation Ground vehicle) challenge, the Triple Target Terminator (T3) and the Magneto Hydrodynamic Explosive Munition ( MAHEM). They ruthlessly torture language to create a new form of technocratic poetry.
‘I think weapons design attracts the brightest minds and can draw on limitless funding, so it’s no wonder they make such fascinating stuff. It is an art form of sorts, increasingly so, as the systems become more baroque and dysfunctional, like architectural follies.
‘Form Follows Funding is the first Law of Procurement.
‘I think Defense is the seedbed of all research, but it eventually trickles down to the civil sphere. If private enterprise had created the internet, it would be a lot of bike couriers with USB sticks. Only a military project could have had such a long range investment strategy.’
John is working on his next project, but I wanted to know when he would be makinga full length feature film?
‘As soon as I’ve secured Ministry of Defense funding.’
Noise Artist, Elizabeth Veldon has announced that her record label Black Circle will only promote gender variant and trans artists, who will use the label as a place to air their views, for the foreseeable future. Veldon has told Dangerous Minds that her actions are in response to the recent transphobic articles in the British national press.
‘I am doing this in reaction against the surge in anti-trans articles published in the UK press. This began with Suzanne Moore refusing to apologize for a rather silly comment in the New Statesman, and instead throwing transphobic abuse at anyone who criticised her. She was then given a chance to make transphobic comments in the Guardian.
‘The Observer (the Sunday Guardian) then published an article by Julie Burchill, so full of hate speech that the public reaction against it forced the Observer to withdraw the article.
‘The apology the Observer put in place spoke of ‘causing offence’ but did not recognise that hate speech causes violence, causes hate.
‘This was followed by the Daily Telegraph republishing the article and the Independent publishing several articles defending Burchill and claiming that gender variant people complaining about her article where “a mob,” “bullies,” and “over sensitive.”
‘In addition Caitlin Moran, and the editors of the New Statesman, the Spectator and Vanity Fair have all came out to demand an oppressed minority to respect ‘bullies.’
‘In addition to this many cis gender (that is non trans) people commentating on the stories have sought to tell us what is and is not offensive to us.’
Black Circle is recognized as an important independent Noise and Avant Garde label, with a strong commitment to politics and activism. It also has ‘a policy of not giving a forum to people using hate speech, racist, sexist, homophobic, abelist or agist language.’
Veldon believes that by making Black Circle a focus for discussion on issues of gender, identity and sex, will help educate the public.
‘The intention is to allow those actually effected by this hate speech to have a voice which exists outside of the sound and fury of the comment boards of national newspapers, who would use our outrage to increase click rates and therefore to sell more advertising space.
‘I want to allow the voices of an oppressed minority to be heard, to allow us to contribute to this discussion in our own space and hopefully to educate some people.’
Black Circle have [square], Ars Sonor, Guillotine Munter and Pee-Tura and Elizabeth Veldon ready to release new work over the next few weeks.
01. “A Rural Schoolhouse” (45:23)
02. “And See The Flaming Sky” ( 45:24)
03. “Tower Block” (16:47)
04. “Anniesland Cross As Seen From The Train Station” (14:18)
Four Landscapes is also available as a Limited Edition Hand Painted 3 Cassette and CDR Box Set, together with landscape photographs and several printed inserts. Includes immediate download of 4-track album in your choice of MP3 320, FLAC, or just about any other format you could possibly desire. Full details can be found here.
It’s early December and the first snow of winter is falling across the west coast of Scotland. Friends tweet their excitement, their child-like hopes for a white Christmas, posting images of blurry snow on lamp-lit streets. At her home in the north of Glasgow, Noise Artist Elizabeth Veldon stands in her garden, recording the sound of the snow falling.
Veldon is one of the most prolific and talented Noise Artists working today. Her work includes some of the most beautiful, brilliant, challenging and powerful soundscapes recorded. Her albums, such as A Blasted Victoriana, work on multiple levels offering up an intelligent critique of history, politics and sex. Others, including the beautifully mesmeric Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, a haunting celebration of the winter solstice.
When asked about her background, Veldon says there’s not much to tell. She was born in Scotland, into ‘a poor village with massive unemployment and a strict demarcation between Catholic and Protestant .’ This she says ‘probably led to my less than forgiving approach to religious belief.’ Veldon moved to Cambridge to study English Literature at college. It was as a student that her interests in the themes of gender, sexuality, feminist critical theory, poetry and politics, which would influence her musical work.
Returning to Scotland, Elizabeth met her partner 8 years ago. Her partner has been ‘a guiding force in my music.’ Over 6 years ago, Veldon started recorded her first CD. It sold out, and was collected by the Scottish National Library. From this Veldon started recording on a weekly then a daily basis. ‘I launched my bandcamp site around a year-and-a-half ago and since then have uploaded over 100 albums to it. I also formed my own label Black Circle records’ around 1 year ago, as a way to publish music based upon ideas of co-operation, collaboration and community.’
Paul Gallagher: When did you become interested in music and creating noise music/soundscapes? What were the key moments/influences?
Elizabeth Veldon: ‘I’ve always been interested in music, but I suppose this really took off when I met my present partner and two people obsessed with music got together.
‘I don’t know exactly when I became interested in making music but I remember why: I wanted to show that it was possible to make music without studios or finances, a kind of democratisation of the music making process. I began posting these on myspace (back in the days when everyone used myspace) and got positive feedback so I kept going. Originally I improvised tracks by playing multiple pieces by other artists over each other and recorded this to tape using a stereo with no speakers connected. This was then recorded back to my computer and then used as one of the tracks in a second layer and so on and so on until I had a completed piece.
‘As I began taking this process seriously, I started to think of it in terms of John Cage’s Fontana Mix, and began half-jokingly referring to it as Fontana Mix Without A Score, and John Cage has stayed my primary influence since then. I think it’s his belief that music is that which is produced by an artist or composer that most captures my imagination.
‘This led me to try to produce music that echoed the ideas of Pure Abstraction that is something which was not inspired by an external object or sensation. It was this that led me to experiment with feedback and wave forms.
‘More often than not the germ of a work comes from something read in a book or something I hear. For instance The English And Their Dogs came about from my partner saying ‘The Germans love children the way the English love their dogs’. While Satan Is A Very Poor Fellow was inspired by the cover of a book about German artists in exile during and after World War Two.
‘Other influences have included geometric abstractionism (in that it gave me a way to think about producing abstract music), 90’s feminist punk such as Bikini Kill, Derek Jarman (for his fearlessness) and early music.
‘That sounds like the most pretentious list of influences ever.
‘Lately I’ve found myself interested in landscape and finding inspiration from that and then, of course, there’s politics which is always present in everything I do.’
Before bouncers or doormen became codified, legislated and organized into a multi-million-dollar security industry, anyone could turn-up on the door of a bar or a club, so long as they were willing to put the boot-in or take ‘a doing’ from some disgruntled patron. Back in the 1970s, everyone seemed to take turns at standing on door. My brother made a brief career of it, in velvet jacket and bow tie, before becoming an accountant.
Once, even I had my stint on the door of a club with a pal called Mike. While I was out of my depth, Mike had experience. He wore steel toe-caps, had a cycle belt wrapped around his waist, and carried a chib tucked-in his boots. I hoped my interest in modern literature and the films of Ken Russell would dissuade any would-be trouble-makers. Thankfully little happened other than escorting a few drunks off the premises. But it was an experience and I’d discovered it wasn’t my calling. Mike went on to join a chapter of the Hell’s Angels, while I went off to college.
I was reminded of my puny attempts at bouncing by this rather wonderful film report, from the late great Bernard Falk, on the training of Glasgow bouncers during the 1970s. Meet Cherokee, Dirty Harry, Big Billy, and Little Billy, who are trained to deal with troublesome customers in a gentle, polite and effective fashion, at a ‘rent-a-bouncer academy’ by black belt Judo champion, Brian Voss.
Real men do cry, as the legendary Rod Stewart proved last night, when he burst into tears after his beloved Celtic F.C. beat ‘the world’s best soccer team’ Barcelona, 2-1, at their stadium in Glasgow.
While some wags thought Mr. Stewart must have lost his wallet to elicit such a response, I can attest, as a fellow Celtic supporter, tears of joy were more than understandable after such a tense and exciting, Champions League game. Now, here’s to the next one.
The latest release from BMX Bandits reunites the talented, maverick frontman, Duglas T. Stewart with his former Bandits Jim McCulloch, Norman Blake and Sean Dickson, who together have produced BMX Bandits In Space, which is the most accomplished and best record of the Bandits’ long and influential career.
This the 16th BMX Bandits’ release and is the first time Stewart has written with Dickson and McCulloch in over 20-years. The rekindling of their talents has gilded the quality of the bandits’ songs - writing some of the finest they band has ever produced.
‘There isn’t really a pattern or formula for how BMX Bandits songs are written,’ Duglas T. Stewart explains, ‘And I like it that way.’
‘I think some writers get tied in by habits they have when writing, their hands tend to gravitate to certain shapes and chord progressions on instruments. Because I don’t write at an instrument, as I don’t really play any instruments and don’t understand the rules and mathematics of music, I avoid doing that naturally. When I write a melody it can pretty much go anywhere.
‘For this album the songs were written many different ways. A lot of the songs were written with Jim McCulloch. Jim was an original member of BMX Bandits in 1985 and 1986 but we didn’t really write together then. Sometimes Jim had a musical idea that I would contribute other musical ideas to and lyrics to and sometimes he had some words and a bit of a time and sometimes I had the original musical idea. I think of music in very visual ways, a bit like a soundtrack to little movies in my head or like what Shadow Morton, Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry did with The Shangri-Las. So within a song each musical section will often be a representation of a scene. Musical phrases and sound motifs may represent a character, an emotion, an action or even dialogue that the lyrics doesn’t include.’
Through a series of connected songs, BMX Bandits In Space tells the story of an Astronaut as he drifts in space and time, looking back on the loves of his life.
‘The space in BMX Bandits In Space isn’t the space of Star Wars or 2001: A Space Odyssey, it’s more like the space that’s portrayed in Douglas Trumbull’s Silent Running,which starred Bruce Dern, or a bit like a space version of 1964 TV version Robinson Crusoe, scored by Robert Mellin. Mellin’s Crusoe soundtrack for that series was something I kept returning to during the making of BMX Bandits In Space.’
The opening track is the beautiful “Still”, which sets the tone for the album and where Stewart, at times, sounds like a young Willie Nelson.
“Still” - BMX Bandits.
‘The first song that I wrote for this album was “Still”. The melody for the verses and the first line came to me the last time I visited Japan. I kept singing “There’s no need to worry, it’s going to be alright” over and over to myself, trying to reassure myself but somehow I didn’t believe myself.
‘I worked on my idea with the Japanese group Plectrum and when I returned home they sent me a rough version of what they had recorded. I was playing the game Wii music with my son and I loved it and the sounds on it. I could suddenly hear/see the complete story and heard the arrangement for the song with mellotron voices and sounds like the ones on the game. The song set the whole tone and mood and setting for the album. Although the song doesn’t mention space or space travel I felt like the character in this song was hopelessly drifting in space in a little pod like craft with instruments crackling and things shorting around me.’
“Still” sets up the concept of an astronaut or traveler in search of personal, emotional redemption, the tale told through the cycle of songs, incluidng “Beautiful Friend”, where we are told:
“I was alive again, I could smile again.”
Through to “Look At You, Look At Me” and “Listen To Some Music”, with its knowing reference of post pop glories, to “Like The Morning Sun” - with Rachel Allison’s delectable vocal, “Elegant Love”, “You Disappointed Me”, “Fucked Up This Time”, “It’s You”, through to the haunting final refrain of the brilliant “In Space”.
BMX Bandis “In Space”
Duglas explains there are a series of characters who run through the album, appearing and reappearing on different tracks, as he explains:
‘The Lonely Astronaut - dreaming, remembering and misremembering little scenes of love.
‘The Dream Lover - who first appears in the song “Beautiful Friend”, then reappears in “Look at You, Look at Me”, “Like The Morning Sun” and in other places.
‘The Angel - who can wash away my sins and guide me and other lost souls home, sometimes she blurs at the edges with the dream lover character.
‘The Soldier - sent off to the front the day after meeting his ideal girl at a dance. Again this character blurs with the lonely astronaut, with me and with an idealised version of my grandfather.’
The blurring of these characters and songs reveal how close their emotional odyssey in BMX Bandits In Space is to Stewart’s own biography, and the ending with the Astronaut / Soldier traveling across a landscape bathed in light, offers a hopeful redemption.
As Duglas sings on the album:
“It’s a complicated story, like the best ones can be…”
“...could change your life, so let our song begin.”
And I suggest you do just that. For Duglas T. Stewart and his fellow Bandits have brought together the best of their talents to make BMX Bandits In Space a stunning, beautiful and brilliant album, which is top of my list for Album of the Year.
Gangs have been synonymous with Glasgow since the 1800s. The poverty, squalor and terrible overcrowding of this great industrial city led to a harsh indifferent attitude to life and self-preservation.
The Penny Mob came out of the East End of the city. They had their own rules, dress code and even collected fees for a shared fund to pay police and court fines - hence their name. The Penny Mob elected their own chairmen to take charge of collecting money for the fund and its distribution.
The Penny Mob bred many rivals, who they fought for territorial dominance of a few blocks of street. The San Toys operated out of the Calton, a district close to the city center, and they fought with the Tim Malloys. Battles were brutal, bloody and quick. Fights often took place in Glasgow Green, a large municipal park to the east of the city, on the banks of the River Clyde. These were called “square gos” - one-on-one fights, where gang leaders slugged it out with each other. More often than not, these ended in pitched battles between rival factions.
Gangs spread throughout the city - each district, or block, was demarcated with its own gang. The South Side had some of the most vicious gangs, including the Mealy Boys, the McGlynn Push and the Gold Dust Gang, which operated out of the Gorbals. Gangs used bars and drinking dens as their HQs and meeting places, from where they planned their next territorial battle.
By the First World War, gangs were rampant across the city, with the most infamous being the Redskins that ruled the East End. Unlike previous gangs, the Redskins preferred swords, hatchets, machetes, razors and lead-weighted clubs rather than fists. They also operated as a major criminal organization, running protection rackets on local shops and businesses, and were involved in extortion, burglary and random mugging.
The Redskins fought rivals like the Calton Black Hand, the Bloodhound Flying Corps, the Hi-Hi’s, the Kelly Boys from Govan and the Baltic Fleet, which ran out of Baltic Street. The Redskins were eventually crushed by the police who were not afraid to use their own brutal tactics to quell the gangs.
Gangs always flourished during times of poverty. The 1930’s Depression saw a rise in violence and a new wave of gangs using cut throat razors as their weapon of choice, not just on their enemies (where they were used to inflict the “Glasgow Smile”), but on innocent members of the public.
In the 1960s, singer Frankie Vaughan famously visited one of Glasgow’s most troubled areas - Easterhouse. Here the singer successfully co-ordinated an amnesty between rival gangs, raising thousands of pounds to pay for amenities and youth centers. Vaughan, who had starred with Marilyn Monroe in Let’s Make Love, and had a highly success singing career, became a hero to the community.
By the 1970s, gangs had lost much of their appeal as judges gave out stiff sentences - a 2-5 year jail term for carrying a razor blade. Some gang members moved into more serious crime, running drugs and extortion rings, and carrying out major bank robberies across the city.
Today, though Glasgow has changed dramatically for the better, it still has an unfortunate reputation, In part because it is sadly still one of most violent cities in Western Europe. The homicide rate for males aged between 10 and 29 is on a par with the countries Argentina, Costa Rica and Lithuania. Not other cities but whole countries. A stabbing occurs every 6 hours. Many more go unreported. Alcohol-related death rates are 3 times the British average. And there are parts of Glasgow have the lowest life expectancies in Europe.
Yet, I love this city, for there is a great humanity amongst the people of Glasgow, that reflects a genuine belief things can and will get better.
This documentary focusses on Glasgow gangs during the 1960s, interviewing various gang members and looking at Frankie Vaughan’s involvement in bringing an amnesty to parts of the city.
They were making a film, and Alex Harvey was the director, creating the different scenes, to which SAHB put the sound track. And what a great film it was too.
It’s 30 years since Alex Harvey died on the eve of his 47th birthday. Hard to believe, but there it is. It seems so recent but is now so very far away. Yet, we all need some Alex Harvey in our life, just to remember the brilliance of the man, and of the Sensational Alex Harvey Band. Here is Alex in a brief interview with “Whispering” Bob Harris on the Old Grey Whistle Test, where he talks about his early days as the Scottish Tommy Steele, playing in the Big Soul Band, and performing in the musical Hair. The key thing to note here is the long apprenticeship Harvey had before he reaped success.